Friday, February 20, 2009

Chickens and stuff

I have 15 chickens in my house right now. "Why?" would definitely be an appropriate question! The new baby chicks came in this week, so we ran over and picked them up - 14 of them. Max and I set them up in the spare room since the laundry room is filled with our future garden (whoooo!) and really 14 baby chicks need a little more space than a few inches on top of the counter. We set them up in a great little chick condo, with shavings and a wonderful heat lamp so they would be nice and warm.
I went outside to do some yard work to take my mind off waiting for the doctor to call with test results. After a little while, I went inside to check on Max who was quietly watching a movie. However, I smelled smoke.
Me: Max, did you light a candle?
Max: No.
Me: Did you light something on fire?
Max: No. (Not even looking up at me...)
Me: Why do I smell smoke?
Max: Shrugs
Right at that moment, I remembered the baby chicks and the heat lamp... I ran down the hall, opened the door and smoke poured out of the room. The fire alarm started to go off. And the my wood floor was on fire. Well, more smoldering. The cardboard box that the heat lamp was now in was on fire.
Me: Max, How DID This Happen???
Max: I didn't want the chicks to get burnt.
Me: So, you took the heat lamp out of the cage???? And put it on the floor????
Max: I put it in a box.
Me: But I told you not to touch it!!!!
Baby chicks are okay. My floor has a large charcoal spot. Max is in trouble for not obeying.
This morning, I woke up to a rooster crowing. I'm not supposed to have roosters. Actually, I'm not even supposed to have chickens. So, a rooster is a big problem. Turns out one of the chickens my mom gave me a few months ago - a boy. Tonight I put him in a dog crate, in my living room. I'm hoping that will keep the neighbors from hearing him in the morning (and most likely the next couple of mornings) until my mom can take him home with her next week...
This has been an interesting week for our little "farm."

Friday, February 13, 2009

Garden Beds

Okay, I couldn't resist. It was such a beautiful afternoon yesterday, my class was cancelled and I had to buy chicken feed. The chicken feed only comes in because I was at the feed store and they have straw. Since I have heavy, heavy clay soil and stupidly gave away my rototiller after my divorce, I decided it would be easier and better to do raised beds without being enclosed.

I have been saving all my yard waste for a while now in anticipation of digging it into my new vegetable garden, but instead of spending hours and hours that I really don't have right now, we will be trying to Lasagna garden technique.

In case you have never heard of lasagna gardening it is a process where you layer stuff to about 2 feet high and then just plant directly in it. So far, I have a layer of straw, the bottom of the chicken coop, shredded bills courtesy of my parents (they seriously had bills from the Baptist kindergarten they sent me to over 30 years ago), a layer of leaves and some horse manure. I still need to add about another foot of stuff, so I'm not sure if I will try to repeat the layers or go scavenging in other peoples yards...

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Seed Catalogs

I got two new seed catalogs last night in the mail. Actually, they probably came last week, but I am not good at checking my mail - I only get bills or ads. And since I don't want either one, I tend to ignore them. I keep hoping the that bills will just go away, but they don't and somehow I end up paying them all in end!

But, my new catalogs are making me covet. See, I have already started my seeds for my new garden. I haven't gotten the new garden beds made yet, but the seeds have been planted for a few weeks now and getting to the point where they should be transplanted soon - if not in the garden then at least larger containers. But, here is this new, shiny catalog with beautiful looking produce that I don't have...

I don't want to say that seed catalogs are like porn for gardeners, but I can't think of a better analogy. I can't go outside and work in the garden because it is too wet (Thank God for the rain!). It is too cold to plant. And I don't have the time right now. However, I bet if it was nice weather I would be in the garden despite the fact my thesis is due in less than a month!

So what do I do about the seed catalogs? Do I open them up and drool over the pretty pictures and enticing descriptions and possibly be disappointed with what I have already purchased, sown and happily watched grow? Do I put them away for next year? Or maybe I can buy one or two more seed packets and somehow find enough space in the yard for just a couple more plants? What would you do?

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

February Challenge

Okay, I know this is coming a little late, but bear with me - everything is late in my life right now! The challenge for February is the No Food Waste Challenge. I am not the only one doing this and in fact, this is not even my idea, but it rocks. My mother used to say "A woman can throw more out the back door, than her husband can bring in the front." Besides the fact that this is an obvious patriarchial, insulting remark, the sentiment is still valid. We throw away so much stuff, including food.

While reading about this challenge, I was amazed at the statistics. It's estimated that Americans don't eat 40-50% of the food we produce. That's a lot of food we throw away, not to mention what it took in energy, fossil fuels, labor and transportation costs to produce that food. This is a great blog that explains the challenge and all of the statistics if you're interested...I would love to write an in depth, articulate and stunning article about this topic, but that would just be procrastnating even more and Crunchy Chicken did a great job!

If you want to join me in the challenge, send me a comment and we'll try to waste less together.

Food Waste Reduction Challenge - February 2009

Monday, February 9, 2009

Sunday, February 8, 2009

January Challenge

Well, January is over. I understand this is not a surprise since it is over a week into February now. However, I had challenged myself to no shopping during the month of January except for fresh veggies, eggs and milk. I wanted to clean out my freezer and pantry and see what I really ate. I also wanted to challenge myself again to not consuming things I really don't need in the first place. It is amazing after having done this a couple of times, how much I buy that I really don't need. It is also amazing to me how much I use "buying things" as an emotional crutch to feel better. In case anyone was following my January challenge, I'm posting an update on how the month went.
Surprisingly, the month went fairly well. I didn't have that many withdrawals (in fact, if I stay out of stores altogether, I don't even find the things that I didn't know that I always needed). I did have a few instances of running to the store, but that was mainly for convenience sake. I ran out of flour tortillas and that is just not acceptable in this house. We eat quesadillas at least 3-4 times a week and it is my standby, just picked up the kids and they must eat RIGHT NOW meal/snack. I also bought some lunch meat for Ryan's lunches. Again, this could have been avoided with better planning, but right now I am just trying to exist and get through the next few months with school.
I also bought a large sack of flour and instant yeast. I have been making my own bread, bran muffins and other yummy goodies since I'm on a baking kick. Also, making bread just tastes worlds away from the store bought stuff, is cheaper and is not considered purchasing. My trusty Food 4 Less down the street, doesn't carry large sacks of unbleached flour or instant yeast, so off to SaveMart I went. I haven't been in a one for a while and it was a little overwhelming. So much stuff! Where I used to go down every aisle to see what I might need and would spend over $100 a visit, in fact more like $200, I didn't even want to see what they had to offer. We didn't need it. But even sticking to the stuff on my list for things that Food 4 Less doesn't carry, it still cost $91!
I would like to reduce my need even further, but short of raising my own meat, I'm not sure I can right now. So, it is about using what I have and trying to plan my meals farther in advance! One of the things that I have learned from this challenge however, is that I really don't cook out of my pantry. Except for staples such as flour, sugar, rice and pasta, most of it is still in there.
Oh, I did make one major purchase this month - chicken fencing. Darrin built me a beautiful chicken run to keep the chickens out of the garden and off the patio (translation - no more chicken poop to step in). So far, the run is doing fairly well. We didn't put netting on top to see if the fence itself would keep them cooped up before we went to added expense. For the most part it does, but every couple of days one will fly over the fence and wander around waiting for the others to join her...

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Ryan's Birthday Party

We had a reptile guy come out for Ryan's 7th Birthday Party. I had some misgivings about this party and still do actually, but the party was a huge success. My misgivings are that every year we are throwing my children these huge, expensive parties. They don't need them. I can't afford them. But their father wants them to compete with other kids their age. What do you do? I don't want my kids to feel left out, yet I think it is a huge waste of money. So, what do you think about big birthday parties for kids?
Okay, enough ranting because it was really fun! Here are the pics if you're interested...

Monday, February 2, 2009


First of all, I should probably warn you that I am not the world's best house keeper. Not that I don't love a clean house, it's just that there are always more fun, important, pressing (insert adjective of choice) issues to take care of. In fact, I usually clean the toilets when company is coming over because there is mold growing. Yet, when I do clean, I try to use all natural cleaners. I used Mrs. Myers cleaners for a while and while I absolutely love them, they are expensive.

I have also used my own concoctions for years, but now that I am trying to save more money, I am using even more of my own cleaners. I came across a recipe for furniture polish the other day, that made my table and buffet look better than new. Furniture polish:

2 cups of olive oil
juice of one lemon
mix well
Put on with a soft cloth, and buff when dry.

Not only do your hands feel great after using this, but you could even use it as a salad dressing!

I use baking soda to clean my stove, sink and shower and am experimenting with other recipes I found to make more cleaners. I'll let you know what works. With very active boys in the house, things get pretty dirty and I don't like all the chemicals. If anyone is interested this link is a great resource for cleaning recipes and she even has great ideas to make them look good too!

Sunday, February 1, 2009

My garden

We are getting ready to harvest our first head of broccoli from what's left of our winter garden. Although I originally wanted my chickens to be completely free range, they were very happy about my freshly planted winter garden and quickly decimated the entire thing ignoring the beautiful, fresh weeds sprouting that they were supposed to be eating for me.

They now have a chicken run attached to their coop. I am very excited about their run, but also a little sad. I am excited because there will no longer be poop on my patio, my garden will be safe at least from them and maybe they will lay their eggs where I can find them! However, I really enjoyed sitting in my backyard and watching the chickens run around - it soothed my nerves and just made me happy! I will probably let them out to run around while I am working out there avoiding my thesis...

Back to the garden. Hopefully this weekend I can get the new beds ready for planting. While the rest of the country is under a blanket of snow - I live in California's central valley. It is beautifully sunny (even though we desperately need rain) and should be about 66 degrees today. Eating locally is easy here because we grow most of the food that is shipped to the rest of the country. However, growing conditions can be tricky. The last frost might have been last night or could be sometime in April. However, April could also be 90 degrees already. Our summers are HOT which means that plants shut down growing and producing so we almost have two short seasons instead of one long one.

To combat this issue, I have started some tomato plants from Mexico that are supposed to produce even in the heat of the summer. I have turned my laundry room into a plant nursery with grow lights and have started most of my seeds already. In fact, they popped up so quickly I'm not quite sure they will make it to planting time without some issues.

Not only is my laundry room home to my seedlings, but in a week or two it will also be home to my new baby chicks. I know that Darrin did not expect any of this when we started dating...